Just A Few Thoughts From A Controller, Flight 77 flight characteristics

post Apr 13 2008, 07:05 PM
Post #1

Group: Student Forum Pilot
Posts: 16
Joined: 13-April 08
From: Vancouver Canada
Member No.: 3,146

Hello everyone, not sure that I can start a new thread without some sort of permission. There seems to be a lot of information on this board and it certainly will take hours to sort through. I thought I would give my opinions before I read everything, which then would not be influenced by what I have read. Hopefully it would also lend credibility for some other opinions out there on the same matter. My opinions are in general for AA77 but some could be made for all four flights in general.

I for one was an ATC'er for 33 years and was working on the day. In Canada of course we were busting our butts taking all the overseas flights into Canada when the ESCAT was declared. Even at that we managed to watch as much of the events unfold as we could. Before I g on, I must say that the controllers of NavCanada performed flawlessly under extra ordinary circumstances. Americans should be proud of their counterparts 'up north'.

First off, for 4 a/c to be successfully hijacked and all flight crews relinquish control is nearly impossible in most aviation peoples mind. I remember when a disgruntled FedEx employee stowed aboard a MD11 or DC 10 tried to overpower the crew so as to crash the aircraft. This event I think more closely resembles the actions of a flight crew than any other historic incident. Although the 10 had a three man crew, the attacker made quick work of the flight engineer and then tried to overpower the remaining two. The captain nor the first officer gave up the ship so to speak. So here's the deal, do you resist in the cockpit where your odds might just be equal, or do you give up with the hope that reason will eventual get you back in control. Personally the FedEx incident proves what a cockpit crew would do. There are only three scenarios in my mind. A violent struggle in the cockpit where even with the crew overpowered, it would still require a struggle. With the captain or the F/O struggling, the a/c autopilot would surely have been disengaged by any sort of control movement, and thus be recorded on radar. The incapacitated crew is dispatched to the front of business class where they obviously would be noted by the passengers. This requires moving people out of a tight spot, over a bank of throttles, trim levers and radio's. Who can do that with two people and not move the a/c around? The second scenario is that one of the flight crew is removed for a hijacker to assume that position. In the phone call that Olsen made, was the pilot bloody? Any clothing dishevelled (sp). Was he cursing, gathering concensus to storm the cockpit, much like what was reported in Pennsylvannia?

The third scenario is that the crew was overpowered and instructed in where to go, much like an ordinary hijacking. I think the first two are highly unlikely, as the FedEx incident shows.

In watching the NTSB simulation I found several oddities. The first right off was that the a/c was never quite level once the hijacking had started. I am arguing against my own assumptions, but a student pilot always flies with the left wing down slightly. This is prevalent for the entire remainder of the flight. So it was hand flown for the duration. Very tough to do at altitude for a novice. As well, in 33 years I have never seen someone be able to turn an aircraft visually 180 degrees and roll out on the right heading for a city under only VFR. If the hijacker knew how to program the flight director or even just a VOR, he should be able to engage the auto pilot to fly the turn. The turn looked reasonable, but it was not flown by the auto pilot. The weather back at Dulles was limited to 10 SM because of smog or Haze. No one, no matter how many years under their seat belts are going to be able to make a visual turn back to DC by eyeball only.

I also question the right turn. If you're going to bend the a/c anyway, why not reduce throttles, push the stick forward and praise Allah. At this point you've accomplished 90% of your mission. And why turn right. A reasonable decision would be to fly a little further on course, keep your destination in sight and turn left. Unless of course the aircraft was flown from the right seat.

Also the controversy about the altimeter setting going through FL180 could mean that the crew was pre-occupied, or that the people flying at the time were not qualified.

I also have a problem with the radar tracking. Immediately I see that the track returns are spaced equally. Radar sweeps are 6 seconds or 10 seconds. The a/c changed speed quite a bit, therefore the spacing should reflect that. It could be that relevant other returns were eliminated from the tape and that the track of AA77 was man made as a representation of the flight track. It certainly does not look like the playback that one would see on a PC. The NTSB should admit to that.

I also question the debris field. An explanation of 'vaporization' is just not plausible. In order to vaporize something, the initial resistance must be solid. But it was how many walls that the aircraft tore through? You can not give the explanation of vaporization when after the first, second and third wall, there was still enough material and inertia left to keep going. Now I will admit that there won't be much left, but certainly more than they admit to. I have seen aircraft burying it flying straight down at well over 400 knots, and other accident scenes will bear this out, but there has always been large tail sections, engines and luggage left.

Also, with 70 some people in the a/c apparently vaporized, did the rescuers wear medical masks? I have more comments but I'll leave them for a while. Thanks.
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